Council polls: BJP list has Fadnavis’s stamp all over it; Sena picks fresh faces

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Leader of opposition in the assembly Devendra Fadnavis continues to call the shots in the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and has hand-picked party nominees for the legislative council elections while in Shiv Sena, veterans are making way for younger leaders.

The elections to 10 seats in the upper house of state legislature will be held on June 20.

Industries minister Subhash Desai and former minister Diwakar Raote, both of whom are prominent Sena leaders, have not been renominated by the party, which is an indication that chief minister Uddhav Thackeray intends to promote younger faces.

BJP has announced the candidature of Pravin Darekar, leader of opposition in the council, Ram Shinde, former minister and other backward class (OBC) leader, Shrikant Bharatiya, who was an official in the chief minister’s office during Fadnavis’ tenure, Prasad Lad, whose term as member of legislative council (MLC) ended recently, and Uma Khapre, who heads BJP women’s wing in the state. Except Khapre, who is the fifth nominee, the rest of the candidates are considered close to Fadnavis. In fact, Darekar and Lad switched to BJP from the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) respectively at the insistence of Fadnavis.

At the same time, BJP has again ignored senior leader Pankaja Munde who has been unhappy for being sidelined. Munde, who was the OBC face of the party until a few years ago, has a running feud with Fadnavis. Over the past two years, BJP has been promoting various OBC leaders which Munde’s aides call a bid to undermine her importance in the party.

She did not react to the development on Wednesday.

“It is quite clear that Fadnavis has complete control of the party’s affairs in Maharashtra. It also means the central leadership continues to trust him,” a BJP leader, requesting anonymity, said.

Sena has fielded former minister Sachin Ahir and party’s Nandurbar district chief Amshya Padvi. Sena has not renominated two senior party leaders – Desai and Raote – who are retiring from the council. Sena said Desai opted out of the race to give the opportunity to a fresh face. Desai and Raote have been among the top leaders of the party and had worked closely with the party founder, late Bal Thackeray. Desai is also the senior-most Sena minister in the state cabinet.

Sena MP and chief spokesperson Arvind Sawant said, “Subhash Desai saheb decided to give the opportunity to others in the legislative council polls and set an example. However, it would be sad that such an able leader, who handled the industries department during such a difficult period, would no longer look after it.”

Desai said, “I am involved in the selection of candidates, and this time, we have given the opportunity to two new people. I am not going to file nomination.”

Technically, Desai, 79, has six months to get elected to either of the houses to continue as a minister. However, Sena is expected to have a reshuffle before the legislature’s monsoon session, party insiders said.

Ahir, who quit the NCP to join Sena before the 2019 assembly polls, filed nomination papers along with Padavi, who contested and lost from Akkalkuwa in 2019 against Congress’ K C Padavi.

Ahir’s nomination was viewed as a political rehabilitation after he cleared the way for a landslide victory of Aaditya Thackeray in his maiden election in 2019. The nomination of Padavi, who comes from the tribal belt in north Maharashtra, is an attempt by Sena to boost the morale of its cadre and send out a message that the party leadership rewards common Shiv Sainiks.

After meeting chief minister and Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, Ahir said, “Uddhav ji told us [Padavi] that we were nominated to work for the common people. I will use my experience in administration to work for Worli, Mumbai, and Maharashtra. I have already started working to take the party to every household in Pune.”

Speaking to reporters outside the CM’s official residence Varsha, Padavi said, “I am a simple party worker from the tribal area of the state. So far, nobody has nominated an Adivasi to the Vidhan Sabha, but our party chief took this decision. We will build Sena in the district.”

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